Understanding the Concept of What is a Mistrial

In the realm of legal proceedings, a term that often confuses many is “mistrial.” So, what is a mistrial? This comprehensive guide seeks to demystify the concept, its causes, implications, and measures to avoid a mistrial.

What is a Mistrial

Defining a Mistrial

In the legal framework, a mistrial occurs when a courtroom proceeding gets halted without a conclusive decision. This means that no verdict of being guilty or not guilty is reached for the defendant. The decision-making authority, whether the prosecution or the court, must then determine the next steps for the case.

Mistrial Causes

Several factors may prompt a judge to declare a mistrial. These can be broadly grouped into three categories:

  • Jury-related Issues: A juror might have expressed something that could sway the jury against the defense, thus violating the defendant’s right to a fair trial. Moreover, if the jury is unable to reach a unanimous decision in a criminal case, a mistrial will be declared due to a hung jury.
  • Unforeseen Circumstances: Events beyond the defense’s or prosecution’s control can also lead to a mistrial. For instance, if an attorney or juror falls ill or passes away during the trial, the judge may declare a mistrial.
  • Improper Conduct: A mistrial may also occur due to improper behavior by a juror, such as researching the case despite warnings, or if a juror has a personal connection with the defendant or the victim.

What Happens After a Mistrial?

The aftermath of a mistrial can vary. The prosecution or the court may decide to drop all charges against the defendant. If this happens, there won’t be a retrial as the prosecution decides not to re-file the charges.

Some may wonder if a mistrial infringes on the prohibition of being tried twice for the same crime, also known as double jeopardy. The answer is no. If the initial trial fails to yield an acceptable verdict, the defendant can be tried again for the same offense. However, there are exceptions that a defense attorney could file to prevent a re-trial.

Is a Mistrial Bad?

A mistrial presents challenges for both the prosecution and the defense. A second trial implies more resources being expended and the need to secure the services of witnesses and experts again.

Each side will also be aware of the other’s evidence, thus allowing them to prepare better rebuttals. This means fewer opportunities to surprise the opposition. However, it also affords both parties more time to present their arguments comprehensively.

Preventing a Mistrial

If you are accused of a crime, engaging a competent and experienced criminal defense lawyer can help prevent a mistrial. They can provide expert advice and representation to ensure your rights are protected and a fair trial is conducted.

What is a Mistrial


While the concept of a mistrial can be complex, understanding it can help you navigate the legal landscape better. It is a crucial part of the legal process that ensures fairness and justice. Notwithstanding the challenges it presents, it is an indispensable element of our criminal justice system.